I stopped by the Chinese grocery store on Saturday.  While I was on my way out, I suddenly saw a bunch of tin boxes near the cookies aisle.  I was like OMG… MOONCAKES!  I was so surprised to find the brand that I like.  I’m super picky about mooncakes.  I only like a very traditional Hong Kong brand called “Wing Wah”.  I couldn’t help and bought a box.  I love mooncakes since I was a kid.  It’s a kind of food that I got to enjoy only once a year. You won’t find mooncakes any other time of the year.  I got home and looked up the Chinese Lunar calendar and found out the actual date for the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival (aka the Moon Festival) is next Wed, September 22 of the Western calendar.  The Moon Festival is on August 15 of the Chinese Lunar calendar. 

Mooncakes are must-haves.  I don’t remember exactly why it’s a tradition to have mooncakes on the Moon Festival.  A full moon somehow symbolizes completeness or reunion.  There was a Chinese folk story about two lovers that got separated, and they could only meet each other on the day of the Moon Festival.  Romantic and yet sad.  Anyway, mooncakes are very dense with sweet lotus seed paste, and each has a preserved duck egg yolk in it.  The egg yolk looks like a moon.  It could be a weird combination if you are trying it out for the first time.  The lotus seed paste is very sweet, and the preserved duck egg yolk has a slight savory taste.  There are a variety of mooncakes available these days.  Some of them have one yolk, two yolks, or no yolk.  Some of them are made with regular lotus seed paste, some better ones are made with white lotus seed paste.  My favorite is Wing Wah’s white lotus seed paste with one yolk.  Supreme!  One time my Beijing coworkers gave me a no-brand mooncake.  I appreciated the gesture, but the mooncake was yucky, a total waste of calories.  Mooncakes are fattening.  Even though I’m on diet now, I would make an exception for mooncakes since they are soooo good.  The only thing is that I would only consume yummy calories.  I don’t sacrifice anything other than Wing Wah.  BTW, I forgot to mention that mooncakes are very expensive.  A box of good mooncakes is like $40 after tax, like $10 per mooncake.  But it all worth it cos it’s so good.

Wing Wah mooncakes
Each box has 4 mooncakes
Pretty mooncake
Mooncake has a preserved duck egg yolk in it
YUMMY, YUMMY mooncake!

Today is one of those days that I carved something sweet.  It could be a rebounce action that my body is hungering for more to sweet stuff since I put myself on diet, or I was exhausted after a long work day and I need something to make me feel good.  I made Salmon for dinner. That was a quick, and easy to make.  While I waited for the fish to be cooked, I boiled some water, and cut a couple of sweet potatoes, and got ready to make Sweet Potato Soup.  I haven’t had this for years.  I have almost forgotten about this.  As I mentioned before, you don’t see too many desserts from any Chinese menus.  And you shouldn’t expect to have cakes or ice-cream as Chinese desserts.  Instead, most Chinese desserts are “Tong Shui”.  Tong means sugar, shui means water, ie sugar water.  I found it very soothing to have a bowl of Sweet Potato Ginger Soup especially in winter as the subtle heat of ginger could help to warm me up.  In fact, sweet potato is very nutritious, it contains vitamin A and C and a lot of fiber that can help with bad digestion.  Ginger helps with the digestive system as well.  Mom always told me that ginger helps to release the gas from the body… hehheh.. you know what I mean.   If you have never tried Chinese Tong Shui or sweet soup before, this is a classic one that you should try.  Again, it’s super easy to make or I won’t put it here 🙂  

     
 
 

Cut sweet potatoes into cubes
Cut sweet potatoes into cubes

  
 
 

Add sweet potato to the pot
Add sweet potato to the pot

Sweet Potato Ginger Soup, so simple and yet so good
Sweet Potato Ginger Soup, so simple and yet so good

 Ingredients (Serves 2):

  • Sweet Potatoes, 2 small ones
  • Brown sugar, 2 Tbsp
  • Water, 5 cups
  • Salt, a pinch

Steps:

  1. Put water in a pot and boil it.  Use high heat.
  2. While you are waiting for the water to boil, cut about 7 or 8 slices of ginger.  You can use less if you prefer. I like the heat 🙂  Put the ginger slices into the pot. 
  3. Peel and cut sweet potatoes into cubes, about 1 inch length.  Add them to the pot.  Add a pinch of salt.
  4. Use high heat and bring it to a boil.  Then lower the heat to medium.  Let it cook for 20 minutes or so.
  5. Add brown sugar to the pot. Let it cook for another 5 minutes.  Taste it.

Serve HOT.

It’s still feel like Chinese New Year to me even though the week is over.  Traditionally, Chinese New Year Day 7 is considered as everyone’s birthday.  And mom would usually make some sweet rice balls.  It’s symbolic to have these sweet round treats to symbolize a sense of  completeness.  I love rice balls since I was a kid.  I only got to have that around new year.  We didn’t usually have desserts after dinner.  If you haven’t realized yet, there are not too many Chinese desserts.  Even if you order some, don’t expect they are anywhere near as sweet as the western desserts.  One time I invited my American buddy and his wife over for dinner.  I thought I should include some desserts.  Back then I haven’t learned how to make any desserts from scratch like apple pie, cheesecake etc.  I bought a bag of black sesame sweet rice balls from a Chinese grocery store.  I cooked and served them.  Of course they looked weird to my friends.  They were small and round in shape, white outside and had a slight translucent black color inside for the sesame filling.  My buddy asked me what they were.  Even though he said they looked like monkey eye balls, he did try them and he loved it.  Tonight, I cooked some peanut rice balls.  On the package they suggested to put them in soy milk, even I found it weird. LOL.  But I give it a try, and it turned out pretty good.

Frozen rice balls
Frozen rice balls
Rice Ball in Soy Milk - Weird but Good.. LOL
Rice Ball in Soy Milk - Weird but Good.. LOL

Ingredients (Serves two):

  • Frozen rice ball, 1 pack
  • Water, 6 cups
  • Soy milk (optional), 3 cup

Steps:

  1. No need to defrost the rice balls.
  2. Add water to a small pot.  Bring it a boil.
  3. Add rice balls to the pot.  Make sure there is enough water so that the rice balls are totally submerged.  Use medium heat. Cook them for 10 mins.  Stir occassionally to make sure they don’t stick to the pot.
  4. Remove the rice balls and put them in a serving bowl.
  5. If you don’t want to try the rice balls with soy milk, you can disgard half of the water, and then add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the remining water in the pot to add some sweet taste to it.   Mix it well.  Pour the water over the rice balls.
  6. If you are brave enough to try the rice balls with soy milk.  You can heat up the soy milk in a microwave or cook it on the stove.  Pour the soy milk over the rice balls.
February 14, 2010

It’s not “damn tart”, it’s “dan tart”, Egg Tart.  “Dan” in Cantonese means egg.

I wasn”t crazy about Egg Tarts when I was young.  It was one of those food that I would eat it but I didn”t have any special craving for it.  One year my childhood best friend got a summer job in a bakery shop.  I visited her a few times that summer.  Every time I visited her, she was making egg tarts.  They smelled so good.  I saw her poured the liquid to the tart shells.  She said it was so easy to make egg tarts.  Of course, back then I had no clue how to cook.  Now I don”t live anywhere near any bakery that serves egg tarts.  And I do crave egg tarts once in a while, I don’t know why.   I probably crave the smell of it more than the taste.  Now I would order it whenever I have dim sum in a Chinese restaurant.  One time, I had lunch with my sister and a bunch of friends at a dim sum place.  We ordered egg tarts as desserts.  The waiter told us that their egg tarts were very special.  My sister asked him “How special?”  He said, “especially small”  What a surprising and stupid answer!  We all laughed.

Soft Egg Tart Filling
Soft Egg Tart Filling
Chinese Egg Tart
Chinese Egg Tart

Ingredients: (make 12-15)

Dough:

  • Confectioners” sugar, 1 cup
  • All-purpose flour, 3 cup
  • Butter, 1 cup
  • Egg, 1 beaten

Filling:

  • Sugar, 2/3 cup
  • Water 1.5 cups
  • Eggs, 5 beaten
  • Vanilla extract, a dash
  • Evaporated milk or half and half, 1 cup

Steps:

  1. In a  mixing bowl, add confectioners” sugar, flour, and butter.  Use a fork or two knives to cut the butter into small crumbs.  Mix well with the flour mixture. If you have one of those fancy gadget that can cut the butter into small crumbs, use that instead of a fork or knives.
  2. Add egg to the mixture.  Mix well and form a dough.   The dough should be moist.  If it is too dry, you can add some more butter.  If  it is too moist, add some more flour.  Knead the dough a few times.  Form a big ball.
  3. Shape dough into 1.5 inches balls.  Press it flat with a rolling pin.  Lay it on a tart mold/paper shell.  Make sure if covers the whole mold, ie bottom and side.  Finsih the rest of the molds.  Put them aside.
  4. To make the filling, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Use low heat, cook until the sugar is dissolved.  Turn off the heat.  Let it cool (this step is important!).
  5. Wait till the sugar mixture is cool.  Beat the eggs in a bowl.  Strain it through a sieve to remove lumps. Add the egg into the sugar mixture.  Mix well.  Add evaporated milk and a dash of vanilla.   You can strain the whole mixture through a sieve the second time to make sure the mxiture has no lumps.
  6. Pour the mixture to the shells.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400F.  Bake for 25-30 minutes in a preheated oven, or until they turn golden brown.